In Colossians 1:24, I read:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (ESV)

I'm very confused by this verse. Does Paul here consider Christ's afflictions lacking in some way? It seems so, but in what way? And how does Paul's own suffering make up for this lacking?


16 Answers 16


I think it is important that he doesn't say something like "what is lacking in the atonement of Christ" or even "in the cross of Christ" but "what is lacking in the suffering of Christ." Here's the most relevant portion of what Calvin says on this verse:

We know that there is so great a unity between Christ and his members, that the name of Christ sometimes includes the whole body, as in 1 Corinthians 12:12, for while discoursing there respecting the Church, he comes at length to the conclusion, that in Christ the same thing holds as in the human body. As, therefore, Christ has suffered once in his own person, so he suffers daily in his members, and in this way there are filled up those sufferings which the Father hath appointed for his body by his decree. Here we have a second consideration, which ought to bear up our minds and comfort them in afflictions, that it is thus fixed and determined by the providence of God, that we must be conformed to Christ in the endurance of the cross, and that the fellowship that we have with him extends to this also.

He adds, also, a third reason—that his sufferings are advantageous, and that not merely to a few, but to the whole Church. He had previously stated that he suffered in behalf of the Colossians, and he now declares still farther, that the advantage extends to the whole Church. This advantage has been spoken of in Philippians 1:12. What could be clearer, less forced, or more simple, than this exposition, that Paul is joyful in persecution, because he considers, in accordance with what he writes elsewhere, that we must carry about with us in our body the mortification of Christ, that his life may be manifested in us? (2 Corinthians 4:10)

Citations of two of the editions of his commentary:

John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 164-65.

This edition may also be found online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Joseph Haroutunian and Louise Pettibone Smith, Calvin: Commentaries (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 208. Quote can be found in "chapter IV: The Christian Life," under heading #2 entitled "Christian Warfare" on page 208.

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    @JonEricson I've added two potential places where this quote can be found. The translation differences are negligible - the same quote is contained in both resources. Let me know if this is poor form to add two "potential sources."
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 7:10
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    @Dan O'Day: That was very helpful. I also found the earlier edition is online and provided a link. Thanks! Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 17:34
  • 'in MY flesh for his body's sake' Isn't this the key? He simply is saying I have not loved you as much as Christ and am happy to love you through my suffering as Christ did for us all.Very loose paraprase.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:28

And I rejoice in the sufferings that are for your sake and I fill up the want of sufferings of The Messiah in my flesh for the sake of his body, which is the church (Aramaic Bible in Plain English, ©2010)

Might I offer a humble suggestion that Paul speaks of a deficiency of suffering in himself compared with the immense sufferings Christ took on. In following Christ's example we have an unfathomable quota of suffering we would have to fill up before exhausting His example to us in suffering for one another. So now he rejoices to take them on for the sake of the Colossians, as Christ took them on for the sake of his body, the church.

In order for there to be a deficiency there must be a standard. Christ is the standard to which we measure ourselves. He can have no deficiency!

  • Thank you for the answer. Certainly that translation suggests a different meaning than the usual translations. Food for thought. Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 17:17
  • I think any of the translations can be read this way. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 23:41
  • @user2027 This answer presupposes with no scriptural support that Jesus suffered immensely and that the sufferings of Paul pale in comparison. Paul suffered a lot more than Jesus. In fact, according to the scriptures Jesus led a rather cushy life and died a relatively quick and easy death. I know that collides with pious sentiment but it is in fact what the scriptures record.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 23:45
  • @Ruminator, your comment that Christ's death was quick and easy lacks understanding of the spiritual shame and separation from God for taking on the sins of the world to Himself. We cannot know the depth of that shame, and to say that His suffering was less than Paul's suffering boggles the mind.
    – Gina
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 8:55
  • @Gina Where is this "spiritual shame and separation from God" described in scripture? It is a popular but unscriptural notion. Christ merely "tasted" or "sampled" death but because of his prayers even one of the thieves next to him endured greater agony (because Jesus' suffering was cut short to only 3 hours instead of the normal several days). It is very gratifying to boggle your mind!
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 13:46

Col 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

The KJ is more comfortable: what lacks are the afflictions of Christ in Paul's flesh. He has not yet had what he is going to get. He is taking the brunt of it so that others in the church don't have to.

v25 implies that his own sacrifice of his flesh is one of the marks of a minister of the gospel.

Col 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

  • I wish this answer got more attention. It's quite good and concise.
    – swasheck
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 22:50

I think it is helpful to consider a somewhat parallel verse, Gal 6:2, where Paul writes, "Bear the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of Christ." The term fulfill (anapleroo) carries the idea of filling up something that is otherwise incomplete. At the same time, the burden-bearing in view has Christ as its primary exemplar; it is Christ "who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal 2:20).

But this law of Christ still needs to be "filled" or "fulfilled." Why? Because those who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Him (Gal 3:27), and thus take on His identity, as it were. (In 2:20, Paul goes so far as to say that he himself no longer lives, but Christ lives in him.) This relationship therefore implies that those who belong to Christ must take up His pattern, which was a pattern of being led by the Spirit into a service of love to others——a service that, both for Christ and for us, entails suffering.

Given all this, it should be clear that Paul is not saying that Christ's suffering for the Church were inadequate. Rather more likely, he is saying that his own sufferings are sufferings on the Church's behalf. In his own flesh, Paul is living out the call of the Church to participate in Christ's sufferings (compare Phi 3:10; cf 1 Pet 4:13).

  • Tim - I think you are absolutely right in emphasising the idea of participation - What is lacking in terms of Christ's sufferings, is our participation (or sharing) in them, through our own suffering for his sake.
    – Richard
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 8:14

The various options are:

  1. Paul's sufferings serve to atone for the sins of the Church

  2. Paul's sufferings serve to bring to mind the price paid by Christ, who suffered so that the Church would be reconciled to God.

  3. Paul's sufferings serve to fill up the suffering that all apostles need to bear, Christ-like sufferings.

In this article , Prof N T Wright suggests that these sufferings are a reminder of the price God paid for the Church's reconciliation, ie., Idea 2:

Third, this reading of 5:21 has tied it in quite tightly, I think, to the whole argument of chaps. 3-5. This suggests to me that, although of course the first half of chap. 6 grows organically out of just this conclusion, it is misleading to treat 5:19 as though it were the conclusion of the long preceding argument and 5:20 as though it were the start of the new one. When it is read in the way I have suggested, 5:20-21 forms the natural climax to the entire argument of the preceding three chapters, with 6:1 being the point where Paul turns to address a specific appeal to the Corinthians. They have, after all, already been reconciled to God (5:20);15 now they need to be urged not to receive this grace in vain (6:1). Moreover, they now have a significant new motive to heed this appeal: the one who speaks is not simply an odd, shabby, battle-scarred jailbird, but one who, however surprisingly, is a revelation in person of the covenant faithfulness of God.

If you read the full article, you will notice that the passage from the Book of Colossians has not been taken into account.

If we are to take up our cross just as Christ did, what happens?

Jesus said that unless a seed died, it could not grow. Picking up the cross is that dying: to self. Saying what God says is picking up the cross. Doing what God is doing is picking up the cross.

John 14:10 NET Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds.

What happens is that we grow, rise up, become alive, like the seed that has been buried.

But the ”we” is the Body of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:11-12 NET For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body. As a result, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Maybe Wright is okay with Idea 1 as well:

What the whole passage involves, then, is the idea of the covenant ambassador, who represents the one for whom he speaks in such a full and thorough way that he actually becomes the living embodiment of his sovereign — or perhaps, in the light of 4:7-18 and 6:1-10, we should equally say the dying embodiment. Once this is grasped as the meaning of 5:21, it appears that this meaning fits very well with the graphic language of those other passages, especially 4:10-12. This in turn should play back into our understanding of chap. 3: the paradoxical boldness which Paul displays in addressing the Corinthians is organically related to his self-understanding as the “minister of the new covenant,” the one who has “become the righteousness of God.” Indeed, we can now suggest that those two phrases are mutually interpretative ways of saying substantially the same thing.


The Greek:

Colossians 1:24 Νῦν χαίρω ἐν τοῖς παθήμασιν ὑπὲρ καὶ ἀνταναπληρῶ τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ ὅ ἐστιν ἡ ἐκκλησία


Now I rejoice in [my] sufferings for you, and I fill up in my flesh that which is lacking [as regards] the sufferings of Christ, for [the sake of] His body, which is the church.

What he is doing is clearly a form of penance, i.e. mortifying his body.

The Greek τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ literally means "that [which is] lacking in Christ's suffering", however, I think it's very clear from elsewhere in Paul's writings that he doesn't believe Christ's atoning sacrifice, His passion, was incomplete or lacking anything (Romans 3:25; 5:9; 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. 1 John 2:2; 4:10 etc).

He appears to be saying that Christ's sufferings didn't pertain to (didn't 'cover') the kind of sufferings that believers are expected to undergo in general—they will still have to suffer (Christ's suffering doesn't or didn't mean that believers do not have to suffer—Matthew 16:24; Philippians 1:29).

Including various forms of bodily mortification. (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7).

St. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:27

ἀλλὰ ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα καὶ δουλαγωγῶ μή πως ἄλλοις κηρύξας αὐτὸς ἀδόκιμος γένωμαι

But I punish my body, and bring it into subjection, lest after I have preached to others I myself should be rejected [or, "become reprobate"].

Here he predicates not being himself rejected or reprobate on doing this bodily mortification.

This kind of teaching explains the perennial pratice of mortification of the body among Christians in the form of general penance, fasting and rejection of 'worldly' things.


Some other important and very relevant scriptures are:

Romans 8:16-18 (DRB)

For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God. 17 And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.

2 Timothy 2:10-13 (DRB)

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with heavenly glory. 11 A faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall live also with him. 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. 13 If we believe not, he continueth faithful, he can not deny himself.

2 Corinthians 1:5-6 (DRB)

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us: so also by Christ doth our comfort abound. Now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation: or whether we be exhorted, it is for your exhortation and salvation, which worketh the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.

Philippians 3:7-14 (DRB)

But the things that were gain to me, the same I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: 9 And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, 11 If by any means I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect; but I follow after, if I may by any means apprehend, wherein I am also apprehended by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing I do: forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before, 14 I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.

Far from teaching 'faith alone,' St. Paul teaches a radical, absolutely necessary, partaking in the real "suffering" life of Christ "in order to be glorified with Him." To be 'crucified with Christ' means more than the debt being nailed to the cross, but to be crucified to the flesh, the old man, the world, and the devil. Not in word, but in truth, actually made a saint, "conformed to the image of his Son," "made perfect," and testifies to his personal intention to actively "press toward the mark" to that end—not that somehow God makes you perfect without your co-operation: "Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect; but I follow after, if I may by any means apprehend, wherein I am also apprehended by Christ Jesus. ... I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing I do: forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before, I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus."


James 2 v24 says the promise which God made to Abraham in Genesis 16 was fulfilled in Genesis 22 when he offered Isaac. Only when Abraham suffered the anguish of laying down his son was the scripture fulfilled. Like Abraham we fulfil scripture - bring it to fullness - when we act on it in faith. Until then it is just words. Perhaps in Colossians 1 Paul is saying that he is filling up (fulfilling) what was lacking in his own Christian life. He is becoming a fuller imitator of Christ as he suffers for the church.

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    Hi Steve and welcome to the site. This looks like the start of a useful answer, but I wonder if I can persuade you to expand on it a bit. For instance, I wonder if the Greek word translated "filling up" in Colossians 1:24 is the same as the word in James 2:23. (I assume that's the verse you mean.) Feel free to edit this answer. Thanks! Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 22:15

It appears to me that this is related to Jesus' assertion that he would tell Paul how much he would have to suffer for the name/fame of the Anointed One:

New International Version Acts 9:16 I will show him how much (ὅσος) he must suffer for my name."

ὅσος has to do with how much or how many or to what extent. So Paul knew beforehand the extent to which he would be required to suffer. We see some inkling of that elsewhere:

BSB Acts 20: 22And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23I only know that in town after town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions await me. 24But I consider my life of no value to myself, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus—the ministry of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Paul knew he had not reached the full extent yet of the suffering (still lacked some suffering for Christ's name) so he was not surprised by suffering, rather he was like the Calvinist minister that fell down the stairs, brushed off the dust and said "Well I'm glad that's over with!"

NET Bible 1 Thess 3: 3so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know.

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    Ruminator - I think your answer throws some interesting light on this subject which I find quite helpful.
    – Richard
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 7:21


Although the idea of ‘rejoicing in suffering’ is found elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g. Jam 1:2), the interesting phrase from Paul here is “…I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions…” What on earth does he mean by that?

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible puts it this way:

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you,.... The apostle, as soon as he had made mention of his being a minister of the Gospel, thinks and speaks of his "sufferings"; for those are what always more or less attend persons in such an office; they are appointed to them by God; Christ has foretold them of them; they are necessary for them; they must expect them, and patiently endure them:

the apostle was under them now at this present time, for he wrote this epistle in his bonds when a prisoner at Rome, not for any immorality, any crime he had committed, but for Christ's sake, for his Gospel's sake, for the sake of the churches of Christ to whom he preached, for the confirmation of them, and so of these Colossians; and therefore he says, "for you"; and which he mentions to animate them to abide by the Gospel, for which he was suffering, that it might continue with them and others: nor was he distressed and discouraged at his afflictions, he "rejoiced" in them, because he had the presence of God in them, the Spirit of God and of glory rested on him, and God was glorified by them; he esteemed it an honour done him that grace was given, and he counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ; and as well knowing that he should live and reign with him, since he suffered with him and for him: and what greatly caused and increased his joy was what follows...


Paul repeatedly refers to his (and our) suffering as being linked to Christ’s own (2 Cor 1:5) and for the glory and benefit of the church, as a whole (Eph 3:13) but this comment in Colossians appears on the surface to add an extra dimension – How could there be anything “lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions?”

Paul had told the church at Corinth that, “…just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows (2 Cor 1:5 Berean Study Bible). So, just as we are called to share in Christ’s sufferings, we also have a share “in the wonderful comfort he gives” (Contemporary English Version). Our suffering is not only likened to Jesus’ suffering, but is said to be a part of the same, so that we are spoken of ‘having a share’ (i.e. a participation) in his sufferings.


I think it is a mistake, therefore, to think of this passage in Col 1:24 as carrying the idea that, in some way, Jesus’ sufferings were not 'complete' and that, somehow, they are brought to completion in us! – Rather, as 2 Cor 1:5 shows, we participate in Jesus’ suffering, just as we will participate in his glory.

Again, Gill's Exposition explains this well:

and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh; by which are meant not the afflictions or sufferings of Christ in his own person; for these were all over, he was now entered into his glory, was exalted at the Father's right hand, and was crowned with glory and honour: there was nothing left behind of his sufferings, to be undergone by any of his people; he had drank of the cup and all the dregs of it; he had sustained the whole of his Father's wrath, and all the curses of the law, being abated nothing, but was made perfect through sufferings; having perfectly suffered all, he suffered once and once for all, he will suffer no more; nor is there any need of his suffering more or again, for he has finished sin, wrought righteousness, made peace, and obtained eternal redemption; nor had he any partner in his sufferings, nor did he need any, or left any part of his sufferings to be filled up by others; for he endured all and the whole, which the law and justice of God could require in his own body, in the body of his flesh through death; of these sufferings the apostle does not speak, but of such which he filled up in "his" own "flesh"; and design the afflictions of Christ in his members, which are called "his", because of that near union there is between Christ and them; so that what befalls them may be predicated of him...:


It’s all about our participation in Christ, not our completing what he merely begun, as if we could take some of the credit. So, what does Paul mean when he says we “fill up in [our] flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions”? It is simply this, that we ‘share’ in his suffering and that it was always intended that we experience this ‘participation’ – this ‘sharing’ - in what was fully his. What is ‘lacking’ then, “in regard to Christ’s afflictions” is our sharing, our participation – not our fulfilling.

As Paul in another place boldly states: “…God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal 6:14)


Could Paul not be alluding to something far deeper than 'that which is lacking' - so called - in Christ's finished and perfect Blood Sacrifice, which we believe He has accomplished once and for all?

Could 'that which is lacking' be none other than that which remains unsanctified and unreconciled to this factual reality, in us, His people (the Ecclesia or The Body of Christ) - experiencially?

Where in this sense alone, we can see the 'Suffering Christ' in all of us, as in 'that which is lacking in Christ', of what is yet to be appropriated by faith, in the redemption and maturation of Christ, in us and as us - in actuality?

Could this not be the very same future expectation (lacking) of 'Christ in you that is the hope of Glory'(See Col.1.27), as we activate our obedience and Faith?

Furthermore, could this not also be where the whole of creation groans (Suffers), waiting to be set free from slavery to corruption, into the glory of the children of God (the Victorious and Glorified embodiment of Christ) (See Rom.8.17.23)?


I think Michael Wood hit the nail on the head. The context gives the answer. And you have to spring backwards and forwards more than just a few verses because Paul tends to run on with his thoughts. His whole thought process is for Christ to be exalted and more fully known. For the church to reach spiritual wisdom and maturity. Jesus Christ isn't done yet. Yes in his atonement he is completely finished. He suffered in his flesh on the cross. Now we take up what is lacking. Not meaning that Christ lacks anything, but rather that the ministry of reconciliation and sanctification is being carried on by Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit working in and through us. Christ suffered in his atoning work for the church. As his ministers we suffer in bringing that message to the world and to make it more fully known to the church. We pick up where Jesus left off.

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    – Tau
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  • @ScottHescht The death of Jesus was not an "atonement" (ie: an expression of remorse and appeal to God for forgiveness) and is never spoken of as such in the scriptures. Any suffering he endured was not vicarious in the redemptive sense. It does model the law of Christ, builds compassion and leads others to the faith though. It was fundamental to the role of the apostles as Paul said, "So then death works in us but life in you".'
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 0:02

Paul's afflictions in his flesh for the church of Jesus is a way to fill up what Christ lacks in his afflictions for his body, the church.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

Colossians 1:24 (ESV)

According to the context, the afflictions/ sufferings of Christ lack the function not of salvation but of service i.e. ministry. This shows that what Christ had done for us envisions ministers -- especially those who acts as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,

Colossians 1:23-25 (ESV)


I was taught, on this matter of "filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions", simply that if Christ were still here in His fleshly body, He would still be persecuted...still be suffering. We suffer in His place, in the timeline. Paul, in particular, was doing so as he worked to establish the early churches - so, he suffered "for the sake of the body, that is, the church" - as have so many others. Makes sense to me!


In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the affluent, cultured, educated, powerful lawyer had asked, “Who is my neighbour?”, and was told a story that cast him in the role of the broken, destitute dying man in the ditch. Then his own question was turned inside out: “Who is this man’s neighbour?” And the lawyer answered “The one who showed compassion” - the one who ‘suffered with’, ie, the socially outcast ‘man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, who has taken our pain as His own. Then, getting the point, he is told to “go and do likewise”, that is, go and make Collosians 1:24 real and active in his life.


While Jon gave a good answer, beginning with Christ's suffering for our attornment is complete (see Tetelestai - What did Jesus really say in John 19:30 assuming he spoke Aramaic or Hebrew?), this answer gives a thorough references from Paul's letters for the commentary Jon quotes.

Left out is the references to suffering building character or don't say what that suffering is (Rom. 5:3; 8:17,18; Phil. 3:8-10)

Related to members of the Body of Christ

 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:25–26, ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2 Co 1:3–6, ESV)

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Phil. 1:29–30; ESV)

Paul is in prison and apparently some of the Philippians were suffering similar persecution. Paul was in prison in Rome, to far away for the Philippian's to help him directly.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Phil. 1:29–30, ESV)

However, that did not stop the Philippians. They did send help through Epaphroditus.

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen (Phil. 4:14–20)

As we feel the suffering of other members of Christ's body, Christ also feels it. Thus, if we truly share in the suffering of other members, we help those in their suffering, and do so as the hands and feed of Christ here on Earth, thus making up for what is lacking.

Other references to suffering persecution left out.


24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

I have always been confused by the notion of redemptive suffering. What is there that is redemptive in the pain associated with bone cancer, or the grief associated with loosing a young child to a senseless act of violence.

The suffering that Jesus endured was first and foremost of his own choosing. For a cause. Jesus stood up to the forces of tyranny and oppression and said no. I will not participate in this corrupt system of injustice. It is not right that your laws, and your practices keep so many people in bondage. It is demoralizing and dehumanizing. Jesus said, "Caesar is not God, and Rome is not the Kingdom of heaven." Jesus spoke truth to power, was a faithful witness to God's justice even unto death. But, Jesus was not successful. He was killed, and Rome continued in it's oppression. This would have been the end of it, and Christ's suffering would have been for naught, except for the fact that his actions inspired people like Paul to take up the cause of justice and mercy, and to be faithful witnesses even unto death. Paul suffered persecution for the sake of Christ, and for the sake of the church. Adding to, and making more effective the work begun by Christ. I would argue however, that cause; that work is never complete. The battle against injustice continues on, until that promised day, when lion shall lie down with lamb; and justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Every time someone speaks truth to power, stands up to the oppressor, is willing to be a faithful witness, even unto death, they are bringing to perfection what was lacking in Christ's afflictions. This is resurrection. This is salvation. Gandhi, MLK, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela... each of these participated in ushering in the kingdom, and changed the world for the better...

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    This comment reflects your personal theology, which is not Christian (or Biblical). In order to understand the redemptive power of Christ's suffering on the cross, you must first understand God, how sin affects our relationship with God, that Christ is God made visible, and that only God can redeem us from sin, since because we are in sin, we can never redeem ourselves. After all of this, then finer points such as whether or not Paul intended to say that Christ's sufferings were not complete will have more interest, value, and make more sense as being something worthwhile to learn. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 23:49
  • @Ruminator 2 no, how did you get that from my answer? Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 17:52
  • @DeborahSpeece I was asking for clarification. What did you mean by the "redemptive power of Christ's suffering on the cross"? But actually, comments aren't the place. If you have an answer please post it.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 17:58

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